I realise that doing something because it's not going to kill you is a pretty weird motivation but I think sometimes you need quite a wide brief in order to get out of bed in the mornings. The year I started life modelling, I had been to seven funerals in the preceding fourteen months. Not only had none of these people died as a result of getting naked (or bungee jumping), but their deaths helped to put things into perspective and crystallise my life motto of 'nobody's died', as in 'it's no big deal, why are you banging on about it like it is'. And even when someone has died, it's not that big a deal because the worst part is over for them. I suppose I should change my life motto to 'nobody is dying' as a more appropriate comparison to 'bad' things happening, as that's probably the worst part. But anyway...
The other night I went to see a man about a job - Burlesque life modelling. It piqued my interest because it seemed to join up some life dots for me. I sell corsets, I get naked in art classes and I work in comedy, so it was to be expected. I arrived. It was a private room in Bloomsbury Square and people were drawing with music playing. The model was on a raised platform in six inch platform heels and standing on a large piece of ruched up fabric. The first thing I notice about this health and safety nightmare is that she is wearing make-up. It strikes me as a strange first thing to strike me, especially given that she is also wearing hold up stockings, black mesh 'panties' as the Amercians would say, and a black backless top incorporating bra thing with stocking holder upper thingies dangling down the legs because the stockings were hold ups anyway and had no need for them. It was complicated - that's all you need to know. I observed the class for half an hour. Here are the other things I noticed that were different to what I am used to:
1. The demographics. In a class - taking place in an art college - of about 15 evening class students, usually about 4 of them are male. I'd say here it was about two thirds or three quarters male. Something like that.
2. One of the men popped out for a loo break mid-draw. Nobody ever usually does that where I'm from; they at least wait for a break. The class had only been going 15 minutes.
3. The artist I was sat next to signed his quick sketch. Hmm either he's famous or deluded, or perhaps both.
4. The coordinator man gave pointers on how long they had left in a certain pose, rather than practical artistic tips. I am used to the likes of the lovely James Tyldesley* moving around the class, passionately getting lost in time with his students, and then asking me how long we've done (but not before my arms have gone to sleep or my shins are burning from the concentrated directional air flow of the heater). The first time he asked me how long we had done in a certain pose, I had to tell him that I didn't know as I wasn't wearing a watch (I have written a sketch about this actually but am yet to shoot it - St Martin's wanted stupid money so I'm still on the lookout for a fee-less location with no red tape).
5. Oh my days! I have only just realised this big difference now - the class were all sitting down at the Burlesque art group, whereas normally they are standing around easels. Hmm this further adds to the spectacle and objectification of the whole thing...
So anyway, with all the above in mind, I am still sleeping on this one. The fact that I am feeling more uncomfortable about modelling not-so-naked than I ever have done modelling naked is interesting, but of course it's always context, context, context.
And then this curve ball: the geezer told me that the model goes on to remove items of clothing at the end. So in effect, what people are drawing is a striptease. Ah, yes. I see now. Less is more, more or less. Except when you start off with nothing. My brain is beginning to hurt like when I try to imagine where outer space ends.
N.B. You get a tenner more for a Burlesquey outfit session than a regular birthday suit one. Why is this? For wear and tear incurred, apparently.